Food For Thought
Half of the food currently produced in the world is wasted, added to the ever increasing piles of rubbish made by mankind. That’s all very well and good if, like us, you live in a land of plenty but literally life threatening for those less fortunate. I remember refusing to eat my Brussels sprouts and Mum saying ‘ the children starving in Africa would love those Brussels sprouts.’ I know it is hard to believe but I was a little smart arse back then and used to say something along the lines of …’well wrap them up and post it to them then!’… which probably earned me a boot up the bum and not be allowed to watch The Muppet Show, but that was back in the 70’s.
My family has been living under a $75 a week grocery cap for the past 16 months and I cannot get over the positive changes we have made in three key areas; Money saving, health benefits and environmental benefits, namely less waste and less chemicals used. The stingy budget has really opened my eyes to our previously wasteful ways.
Our household rubbish had diminished from a bag a day to about a bag a week. The rubbish used to be quite smelly as it contained food scraps. Nowadays I only make as much food as we can eat at one sitting and any leftovers are usually snapped up for school lunches or the next meal. When there is a limit on how much food there is in the house it is amazing how you can suddenly stretch it to meet your needs. In the past we used to be eating cake as bread literally went mouldy in the cupboard, these days we are grateful for whatever there is in the fridge. When your food choice is limited you have no idea how much you appreciate munching away on a carrot or an apple when that is all you have left in the fridge. Needless to say there are very few food scraps rotting in our rubbish anymore.
We have also become more discerning by avoiding pre-packaged food items, mainly because we can’t afford them, and the amount of packaging bought in to our home has been shrinking as our budgeting skills have sharpened up. This has had a huge impact on the amount of rubbish we have to dispose of. We are also recycling but that is another story.
The changes to our lifestyle have been easy to implement. It was as simple as setting a budget limit and then sticking to it like glue. The other decisions you need to make all come naturally as they are just means to an end – feeding the family without exceeding the budget limit. You call on all available resources to do this and if you involve the whole family it is actually really positive and fun. Your whole attitude towards eating changes as you suddenly begin viewing food as a source of protein and nutrition rather than an expression of wealth, or cooking prowess or comfort or love or whatever the Women’s Weekly has been telling us lately.
My friend pointed out water cress growing in a creek at the run-off recently and I have been collecting it and adding it to salads, stews and casseroles. In the past I would have scorned this possibility but the cress is a healthy, flavoursome addition to our meals and its free – I would be a fool to overlook it. It’s also fun to collect and a good example to show the kids that food does not have to come from the supermarket shelves alone.
Over the course of our lifestyle changes I have gained a high level of popularity as a public speaker, sharing my family’s experiences with a wide variety of audiences in Taranaki and beyond. There has been a minority of people in the audiences stunned by the changes we have made and really struggling with the concept. They actually feel so sorry for us as they think our lives must be compromised by the scrooginess of our grocery budget. Not so. It really warms my heart to see Stevie (12) adding the ingredients of Russian Fudge to the grocery list and then making up a batch for Mothers Day. The resulting fudge was yummier, cheaper and much better than just grabbing a sweet treat off the supermarkets shelf. Stevie learnt a lot by going through the making process – getting the ingredients, reading the recipe, measuring it out and working the oven (and I had a great time cleaning up the kitchen.) After I refused to buy chocolate flavoured milk at the supermarket the other day, Danni (17) has been forced to start adding sugar and cocoa to a glass of milk at home. The result – chocolate flavoured milk. It’s amazing what you can do if you have to.
It is so easy to get carried away by marketing and in doing so believe that you need to consume way more that is necessary. It doesn’t stop at food. In my opinion we have gone mad, spending way too much money on consuming unnecessary unsustainable products. Consumables such as cleaning products have got way out of hand. Why do we believe we need a separate cleaner for the windows, kitchen, bathroom, car, barbeque, tiles, floors, etc. It is ridiculous. Why do we think we need a different toothpaste for all ages, plus mouthwash, whitener, and a new toothbrush every five minutes? Because the TV tells us so. As long as we demand these goods – someone will produce them and charge us the earth for them.
Women in particular have a lot of control over household consumption and expenditure. Because we are lucky enough to have plenty we do not have to think about the consequences of half the food produced in the world wasted, but if you stopped to spare a thought for others less fortunate, made a few easy changes to your lifestyle, you might suddenly find yourselves reaping the rewards financially, health wise, environmentally and morally. That is literally – food for thought.